For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. –Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)
This week, we continue our look at why death even exists. Or attempt to further answer the “why” question of death. Last week, we established the primary reason for death: the original sin of our ancestors, Adam and Eve (see previous blog post). However, this week, we dig a little deeper and look at another reason that God allowed death to enter into the lives of mankind.
Although man looks at death with disgust, anger, and dread, death is actually an act of mercy for those who us who are Christians. In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God immediately placed cherubims (a type of angel) to guard the Garden of Eden and the tree of life (another tree in the garden) therein. Man was expelled from Eden and restricted from access to any further exploration thereof.God explains His action, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:24).
Why did God prevent their access to the tree of life? Well, first off, man was now defiled goods having been tainted by sin. His bent was now toward sin. His preoccupation was now toward disobedience. Imagine if man, in that condition, was permitted to live forever. Sin had done significant damage to mankind. Imagine if that damage would go on forever with no hope of healing or restoration. Imagine if a rotten apple did not completely decay but continued on forever in its rottenness. Evil and decay would persist on creating a terrible environment.
Death, from this perspective, is an act of mercy. Imagine if the results of original sin were allowed to endure forever. What if sickness and disease were allowed to rampage a body but the body was never allowed to die? For us to die as Christians is to leave a place filled with sorrow, pain, and suffering and enter a place where sin cannot reach and await a new earth (Revelation 21:1).
Imagine if those who have committed tremendous atrocities in history such as Adolf Hitler never died but continued on in his evil. Imagine if the evil bent in mankind was allowed to live on forever in this life. Though we, as Christians, sometimes fail to realize it, death is an escape from a corrupt world and toward a perfect one.
Environmentally, if there is no death, the earth would overpopulate and living conditions would be tormenting. Imagine if everyone who ever lived were still on earth today and the amount of chaos and confusion that would result.
A once-perfect creation is now imperfect, filled with pain, suffering, and sorrow. God will not allow this disorder in creation to persist forever. It is less than perfect as a result of the curse of sin. It’s not how it was supposed to be. God will one day completely restore creation to its former glory and more! This includes the restoration of man, even in his ailing, dying body. One can look at the resurrection body of Christ in the gospels to gain an idea of our coming resurrection bodies.
Death is an act of mercy by God because death is the great equalizer and humbler among us. The sufferings and approach of death awakens us to the reality of an eternal realm. It, of course, causes us to question our readiness for it. The mercy of God is that suffering and the approach of death causes us to question our very existence and places us in a position where we are more likely to seek Him willingly. Sickness, suffering, and pain are road signs pointing to our approach of death.
Suffering and death lifts the veils off our eyes and causes us to feel around for hope. That hope is in God Himself. For God to allow death, He shows us mercy. Everything that God does is saturated in love and grace and this includes death.
I close with a solemn thought: are you ready for death and eternity? The primary reason that Apostle Paul could look toward death saying “to die is gain”(Philippians 1:21) is because he had placed trust in Jesus Christ. Yet, those who have not received Christ should look toward death with horror because “the wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36).” It is a “fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
God, in His loving mercy, longs to reconcile mankind to Himself. Those who place their trust in the perfect work of Jesus Christ, will go into the presence of God upon death. Not even death can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
Though we look toward death with dread of separation from loved ones, if we are in Christ, we can be rest assured that we will see them again some glorious day thanks to the love of God shown to us in the work of Jesus Christ.